The title of Jane Draycott’s The Night Tree refers to a lighthouse, whose reaching beams of light are likened to petals or branches. By the lighthouse keepers, the sea is described as “a forest, our blades / cutting through like a photograph, / a sequence of light and dark pathways, / hourglasses, rain, where time travels slowly / as if at great hight or in exile”
‘Matchless’ must be a precursor of her translation of Pearl – a 14th century poem about a father’s loss of his daughter. Here about the “loss” of a daughter as she grows up (“shoves coins to kick the message / home: she’s great on her own, can’t / wait to get out of the box.”) – it is, I believe, more final in the full version (though it’s getting there here: “Morning matchless hits the fire / escapes, contact prints the day / she will wake to: the creeping / sense that someone has taken / her photograph while she slept.”).
The last sequence of poems in the collection is from Tideway, a short collection about the River Thames, illustrated by Peter Hay who inspired much of her work and imagery around water, light and darkness. It is from this section that I share this poem:
At his heels all the bigger rooms –
day, night, air – have closed their doors
as blindfold he enters the attic of the water.
Like particles of sleep mud raises itself
to his mask, and with his mind’s eye
he fingers the darkness for signs of her.
This is the underworld of the deliberately lost,
the unforeseen consequence, MOT failure or weapon,
the barges for whom the river has all got too much.
Draped in silt, the debris delivers itself
to his fingertips, soft as the edges of thought,
as a handbrake left off, as the key to a previous door.
Far off he hears the approaching engine
of her name, a deep chest knocking. In his hand
the blue flame flowers and he begins to cut.
Slowly he surfaces and in the empty air
of the house the river runs off his face like a song.
See the intro/roundup.